A Picture Book of Dolley and James Madison

A Picture Book of Dolley and James Madison

by David A. Adler, Michael S. Adler, Ronald Himler
Known as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison served two terms as the fourth president, from 1809 until 1817. When the British set fire to Washington D.C., in 1814, Dolley saved one of our country's greatest treasures, a portrait of George Washington, before fleeing for her life.


Known as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison served two terms as the fourth president, from 1809 until 1817. When the British set fire to Washington D.C., in 1814, Dolley saved one of our country's greatest treasures, a portrait of George Washington, before fleeing for her life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

An escape from a burning White House opens this picture-book biography on a thrilling note. Unfortunately, the attention-grabbing anecdote soon yields to a more predictable parade of dates and facts about America's fourth president and his equally famous wife: "Dolley was born May 20, 1768, on a farm in New Garden, North Carolina. She was the third of nine children.... Future president James Monroe later described her as a tomboy." Following the pair from their birth dates and courtship to their achievements as a political power couple, the narrative is concise and accurate, but falls short of bringing these historical figures to life. Himler (teamed with the father/son Adlers for A Picture Book of Samuel Adams) helps animate the story with his softly sketched illustrations, but their strength lies in evoking the dress, furnishings and architecture of the period. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)

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Children's Literature - Paula K. Zeller
It is 1814, and the British are burning Washington, D.C. They have even set fire to the Executive Mansion. President James Madison is in Maryland helping American soldiers, so his wife Dolley bravely saves several historic paintings and flees the house. What follows this exciting opening is a simple and straightforward history of the times, as well as James' political accomplishments and Dolley's unflagging support. The narrative describes Madison's role in shaping the Constitution, his work in drafting the Bill of Rights, and his two terms as President. As Madison serves in the Constitutional Convention, we meet Dolley Payne Todd, a charming "tomboy." The book traces their later courtship and marriage. It also explains her role as the official hostess for dinner parties during the widowed Thomas Jefferson's term of office and her afternoon parties during Madison's administration. Part of David A. Adler's picture book biography series, this well-researched and documented book is a good introduction to the politics surrounding our nation's early years. Himler's realistic, softly-tinted illustrations help to convey the spirit of this couple, especially Dolley. A timeline, author's notes, source notes, a selected bibliography, and a list of recommended websites contribute to this book's authoritativeness, as well as to its usefulness to students studying this famous couple and their times. Reviewer: Paula K. Zeller
School Library Journal

Gr 3-5

Adler's picture-book biography focuses mainly on the War of 1812, but also mentions Madison's contributions to the Constitution and the creation of the three branches of government. Although this is a biography of the couple, there is more specific information on James Madison than on Dolley. Still, readers do learn some interesting facts about her, such as how she rescued a portrait of George Washington while the Executive Mansion burned. Adler's writing is clear yet not oversimplified, and is without fictionalization. An interesting book to read while studying the Constitution and the different branches of government, this is a reliable source for students to kick-start their presidential and/or governmental history research as well as a good choice for general reading.-Sarah O'Holla, Village Community School, New York City

Kirkus Reviews
America's "most underrated President" and his "Queen Dolley" receive star treatment in this latest entry in Adler's Picture Book Biography series. Two double-page spreads introduce Dolley Madison's heroic retrieval of White House valuables during the War of 1812. After this dramatic opening, the action turns to a young James Madison and his education. The couple's youths are described equally, as well as the courtship between this widowed mother and the short, balding politician. The crucial events regarding Madison's presidency, including the War of 1812 and its flawed Embargo Act, are clearly conveyed, historical complexities intact. Of the resulting 1814 peace treaty, the narrative duly notes that it "didn't address the issues that started the war, but at least it ended it." Himler's soft watercolors and wispy lines suit the historical setting and balance the substantial text. Concluding with Dolley's passing, the final illustration displays their imposing Montpelier home, a commanding reference to the family's influence. An impressive list of source notes and recommended resources provide background support for young readers and researchers alike. (timeline, notes, bibliography, recommended websites) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Picture Book Biography Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
AD870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

David Abraham Adler (born April 10, 1947) is the author of nearly 200 books for children and young adults, most notably the Cam Jansen mystery series, the "Picture Book of..." series, and several acclaimed works about the Holocaust for young readers.

Adler was born in New York City, New York. He graduated from Queens College in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in economics and education. For the next nine years, he worked as a mathematics teacher for the New York City Board of Education, while taking classes towards a master's degree in marketing, a degree he was awarded by New York University in 1971. In that same year, a question from his then-three-year-old nephew inspired Adler to write his first story, A Little at a Time, subsequently published by Random House in 1976. Adler's next project, a series of math books, drew on his experience as a math teacher. In 1977, he created his most famous character, Cam Jansen, originally featured in Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds, which was published that year.

Adler married psychologist Renee Hamada in 1973, and their first child, Michael, was born in 1977. By that time Adler had taken a break from teaching and, while his wife continued her work, he stayed home, took care of Michael, and began a full-time writing career.

Adler has three children and one grandson. He lives in Woodmere, New York.

Ronald Himler is the illustrator of several successful picture books, including TRAIN TO SOMEWHERE, FLY AWAY HOME, and THE WALL. Mr. Himler studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and New York University. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

David A. Adler and Michael S. Adler have collaborated on several books in the Picture Book Biography series. A Picture Book of John and Abigail Adams was called "impressive" by Kirkus Reviews. Both authors live in New York State.

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